GM's Q1 China car sales drop 43% as coronavirus cuts demand


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BEIJING, April 3 (Reuters) - General Motors Co's GM.N vehicle sales in China fell 43.3% in the first three months of 2020 compared with the same period last year, the company said on Friday, as the coronavirus pandemic reduced demand in the world's biggest auto market.

The pandemic has killed over 3,300 people in China, the world's second-biggest economy, and caused the government to lock down parts of the country to contain the spread. The travel restrictions contributed to a 79% drop in overall auto sales in February after a 19% drop in January.

GM, China's second-biggest foreign automaker, delivered 461,716 vehicles in the first quarter, the company said. The first quarter drop follows a second straight decline in annual sales in 2019.

GM has a joint venture in China with SAIC Motor Corp 600104.SS which manufactures Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles. It also has another venture, SGMW, with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group, that produces no-frills minivans and has started to make higher-end cars.

Sales of GM's mass-market brand Chevrolet dropped 54.7% for the latest quarter, while sales of the no-frills brand Wuling fell 34.3%. Premium brand Cadillac's sales jumped 40%.

Amid the sales slowdown, GM and its dealers are trying to woo back lockdown-weary consumers through unusual advertising campaigns, including using a makeup-promoting personality to tout car leasing. The SGMW venture also offers free medical masks to customers.

GM has launched one new Chevrolet electric model in China this year and plans to offer four-cylinder engines in certain models currently offered only with the smaller engines.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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